While walking through Raynor this week, a girl whom I had never seen before waved at me enthusiastically. As my face contorted into confusion, she quickly realized I was not who she thought and fell into her friend’s lap saying, “Oh my God, that’s so awkward!”
Initially, I did not feel awkward. Confused? Maybe. But not awkward. I am a blond 5-foot-2-inch caucasian female. There are plenty of people who look just like me from a distance at Marquette. It was an honest mistake. But as soon as she proclaimed that it was “so awkward,” I felt awkward. When she walked by my table a few minutes later we made – you guessed it – awkward eye contact.
All too often Marquette students find themselves in these so-called awkward situations.
Walking down Wisconsin Avenue appears to be the center of awkwardness. There are seemingly endless possibilities to encounter awkward situations on the main drag through campus.
For example, you are walking down Wisconsin during a time other than a passing period. No one is on the street … except for that girl you did a philosophy project with last semester. You walk closer, knowing what’s about to happen. You might grab your phone and pretend to send a text. If you’re feeling up to it, you’ll go for small talk. How long can you drag out the “hey how are you?” conversation? Timing is of the utmost importance in this situation. Should you commence your small talk too soon, you will be left awkwardly staring at each other until you finally pass shoulders.
To make things even more interesting, there’s the classic awkward reply. Your friend asks, “what’s up?” To which you reply, “good.” Facepalm.
My personal favorite is the post-weekend encounter. You spent the hours of 2-3 a.m. early Saturday morning making a new friend at Dogg Haus. The two of you laugh, have a life chat over cheese curds and eventually profess your love for this newfound friendship. Monday morning, you see your new friend on the way to class. You make eye contact, twist your face into an uncomfortable smile and quickly look away. It’s awkward.
Though slightly cliche, “it’s only awkward if you make it awkward” does have some truth. If we approach seemingly awkward situations with a relaxed, open mentality, there is no reason to feel uncomfortable.
Looking at other languages highlights how “awkward” is a cultural phenomenon. In Spanish, the closest translation of awkward equates to “uncomfortable” or “clumsy.” “Maladroit” is similar in French but does not have the exact same connotation.
Our generation is too quick to label situations as awkward. Rather than happily greeting a new (or old) friend, we slip into a state of uncomfortable panic. A harmless elevator ride with a stranger turns into two minutes of awkward silence. We fear interaction with others too easily.
The next time you’re walking down Wisconsin, try a genuine greeting instead of an awkward hello. And if I should encounter you at Dogg Haus, let’s make our new friendship last past the weekend.